Annals of Environmental Science
Volume 3, November 2009, Pages 195-206
www.aes.northeastern.edu, ISSN 1939-2621
Characterization of Designer Biochar Produced at Different Temperatures and Their Effects on a Loamy Sand
Jeffrey M. Novak, Isabel Lima, Baoshan Xing, Julia W. Gaskin, Christoph Steiner, K.C. Das, Mohamed Ahmedna, Djaafar Rehrah, Donald W. Watts, Warren J. Busscher and Harry Schomberg, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Coastal Plains Research Laboratory, Florence, South Carolina, 29501, United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, Southern Regional Research Center, New Orleans, Louisiana, 70124, Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences Department, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, 01003, Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, 30602, Interdisciplinary Energy and Environmental Program, North Carolina Agricultural & Technological State University, Greensboro, North Carolina, 27411, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, James P. Campbell Natural Resource Research Center, Watkinsville, Georgia, 30677, USA
Received August 20, 2009; in final form October 28, 2009; Accepted November 6, 2009.
Biochar additions to degraded soils have the potential to improve crop yield and soil quality. We hypothesize that the biochar production process can be tailored to form designer biochars that have specific chemical characteristics matched to selective chemical and/or physical issues of a degraded soil. We produced biochars from peanut hulls, pecan shells, poultry litter, and switchgrass at temperatures ranging from 250oC to 700oC. Biochars were characterized by % mass recovery and by their physical and chemical distinctiveness. These were mixed at 2% w/w with a Norfolk loamy sand (fine-loamy, kaolinitic, thermic Typic Kandiudults) and were laboratory incubated to examine changes in the Norfolk's soil properties. Higher pyrolysis temperatures resulted in lower biochar mass recovery, greater surface areas, elevated pHs, higher ash contents, and minimal total surface charge. Removal of volatile compounds at the higher pyrolysis temperatures also caused biochars to have higher percentages of carbon (C) but much lower hydrogen (H) and oxygen (O) contents. 13C NMR spectral analyses confirmed that aliphatic structure losses occurred at the higher pyrolysis temperatures, causing the remaining structures to be composed mostly of poly-condensed aromatic moieties. Biochars produced at higher pyrolysis temperatures increased soil pH values, while biochar made from poultry litter feedstock grossly increased Mehlich-1 extractable phosphorus (P) and sodium (Na) concentrations. Water-holding capacity varied after biochar incorporation. Biochars produced from different feedstocks and under different pyrolysis conditions influenced soil physical and chemical properties in different ways; consequently, biochars may be designed to selectively improve soil chemical and physical properties by altering feedstocks and pyrolysis conditions.